The Reputation Economy and Social Media

Facebook Sign - should your nonprofit, ngo, or charitable organization be using Facebook?

We are living today in a “Reputation Economy”, and like it or not, your reputation is affected by your social media activity (or lack thereof).

What is a Reputation Economy?

We are accustomed to the idea that our reputations precede us in our social interactions in the “real” world. Our friends know us, our colleagues know us, our clients and customers know us. And each of them has developed an idea about us that can be shared – our reputation.

In the digital economy and its extended social networks, the distinction between our physical and virtual reputations has disappeared. Our digital reputation is our “real” reputation, and the digital economy has become a reputation economy. Our reputations, as available digitally, carry very real implications. In the reputation economy our online personas can attract new clients, new friends, even new romantic relationships.

Your reputation defines how people see you and what they will do for you.  It determines whether your bank will lend you money to buy a house or car;  whether your landlord will accept you as a tenant;  which employers will hire you and how much they will pay you. It can even affect your marriage prospects.

And in the coming Reputation Economy, it’s getting more powerful than ever.  Because today, thanks to rapid advances in digital technology, anyone can access huge troves of information about you – your buying habits, your finances, your professional and personal networks, and even your physical whereabouts – at any time.  In a world where technology allows companies and individuals alike to not only gather all this data but also aggregate it and analyze it  with frightening speed, accuracy, and sophistication, our digital reputations are fast becoming our most valuable currency.
~ From The Reputation Economy: How to Optimize Your Digital Footprint in a World Where Your Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset

The Role of Social Media in a Reputation Economy

Social media like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or WhatsApp are readily available, easy to find, and easy to share. Everything we post, and just as importantly, everything posted about us, has an effect on our reputation. Prospective employers will Google you, and they’ll take a look at your Facebook account. Regardless as to your level of active participation in the social media world, there is more than likely something in cyberspace that has an impact on your reputation.

It is important to each of us that we actively manage our reputations online, and effective usage of social media tools is the best mechanism for doing so.

First Steps

If you don’t have at least a Facebook account and a LinkedIn account – get one now!

Yes, I’ve heard all the excuses. I have nothing to post. I am a very private person. I don’t have many friends. I don’t know how to use it. I don’t like computers. Technology scares me. I’m too old. My friends don’t use Facebook. LinkedIn isn’t for people like me. Feel free to add your own excuses… But here’s the thing; if you are not controlling your reputation online through these media, then your reputation is being controlled by other people.

Either people are talking about you, and you have no way to direct the conversation (or even know that it’s occurring), or, just as bad no one is talking about you at all. You may think that’s dandy – but it isn’t. When you are an unknown entity online employers may be reluctant to hire you, potential clients may be less likely to hire you, and potential romantic partners might even be less likely to date you!

Why is having no reputation online nearly as damaging as having a bad reputation?

  1. You are always competing with people who do have online reputations.
  2.  It is not advantageous to have an unknown reputation a reputation economy. Whether for a job or a date, it is human nature to fear and distrust the unknown.

Signing up for an account is pretty straightforward. Companies like Facebook and LinkedIn go to great expense and expend a lot of effort making their products easy to use and as intuitive as possible. Visit facebook.com to start there, and linkedin.com to join LinkedIn

Next Steps

Once you have some online presence, it’s important to manage that presence.

  1. What would you like your reputation to look like?
    This is straightforward enough at the most basic level. You probably want to appear as an honest, decent person, of integrity. But beyond that you may want to emphasize certain aspects of your personality and deemphasize others. You need to have a good idea abut what you want your reputation to look like if you want to effectively manage it.
  2. Edit the “About Me” sections in all your social media accounts
    Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google MyBusiness, you need to keep this section current, consistent, and on message. It’s often the first thing people see when they visit your social media pages. Make sure that there is something there, and that it reflects upon you exactly the way you’d like it to.
  3. Photographs, photographs, photographs
    People love images. We can’t help it. Make sure you accommodate that desire – first and foremost with a good profile picture. If your account is in your personal name, then use a photograph of yourself. No silly symbols. No avatars. You are the person with the the reputation. Your picture is who you are. Corporate accounts or accounts for business names should use either an official logo, or the principle person’s picture, as appropriate to circumstances. Beyond profile photographs, the use of photography will enhance your pages, make them more enjoyable for visitors, and encourage people to learn and linger. If you have the budget, inclination, and ability video posts can be even more powerful than photographs.
  4. Participate
    They call these media “social” for a reason. Spend time there. Join a few groups. Answer questions. Share information and knowledge. Become active online. You don’t need to spend hours every day, even a few minutes every couple days is enough to build a reputation as an active participant, and as a person that adds value in their online community.
  5. Monitor
    Login to your accounts daily if possible. Remember, you are there to manage your reputation. You’ll never put out a fire that you didn’t know was burning.
  6. Manage
    This is the hard part. It isn’t technically difficult. It’s hard because it requires discipline and commitment. There’s the old saying that “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. Well your online reputation in the reputation economy won’t be built overnight either. Stay focused on your goals. Set aside time every day to monitor your accounts and respond to questions and comments. Set aside time every week to post content and add value to your online communities.
  7. Ask for help
    You hire a lawyer to draft your contracts. You hire an accountant to do your taxes. You hire consultants to help you solve business problems. Consider hiring a consultant (like me) to help you develop your social media strategy and manage your social media presence. I’m located in Toronto and provide most of my services here, though I will consult online or by telephone too. Just like the field that you are in, my field is competitive too. I’m happy to help you find someone more appropriate to your unique requirements, if my services are not what you need.

Contact Me

 

5 Blog Problems and how to Deal with Them

Common blogging problems and how to deal with them

Starting a blog is fun and exciting. As we start writing posts, and putting our brilliant ideas out into the ether of the Internet, we wait with baited breath for the first comments and kudos to start rolling in. We wait. And wait some more.

Then frustration and insecurity begin to cloud our happy excitement.

Are we perhaps, not as brilliant as we thought we were? Are we doing something wrong? Did we offend the Google Gods somehow?

All of the above questions represent possibilities. But, more likely, we have not done anything wrong. We are just being too impatient. So the number one way to deal with our blogging problems is to just be patient! Keep writing. Keep posting.

In this fabulous article from Vandelay Design, Steven Snell identifies five common problems, and discusses the best way to address each one.

  1. No Visitor Comments
  2. Not Enough Visitor Traffic
  3. Blogging Without Purpose
  4. Visitors are not Returning
  5. No Revenue Generation

READ STEVEN’S ARTICLE

Real Estate Blogging, for Agent’s Eyes Only

Real estate is a great topic for a blog

Very few independent professionals put more time, effort, and money into marketing than a real estate agent. And, nearly every agent enjoys considerable support for their marketing from the brokerage firm that employs them. Brokerage support usually includes some web presence, but is that presence really enough to support your own marketing efforts as an independent agent?

Many real estate agencies also have a blog. The agency blog is a fabulous tool for the agency, and is helpful to agents as a group or team. However, because of the agency blog, many agents don’t think that they should have blogs of their own. Relying exclusively on the agency blog represents a lost opportunity for the agent.

The agent/brokerage relationship can be complicated at times, since there are always going to be a mix of mutual interests, compatible interests, and sometimes even competitive interests. Here is the root of the relationship complication:

When you do well, the brokerage does well. Obviously then, your brokerage wants you to do well. And that’s great!

BUT

Your brokerage does equally well when any other of their agents does well too. There is not much incentive for your broker to help you become more successful than your peers.

As an independent sales professional, it is necessary to distinguish yourself, independently. The “free” blog on the agency website does not help you to separate yourself from the pack. If your brokerage has one, good. It’s better than nothing. But it is not enough.

There are many real estate companies with excellent blogs. And these blogs bring people into the firm’s orbit. Chestnut Park, in Toronto, has a good blog, that helps the agency stand out. But Chestnut Park has over 300 agents, how much can the “corporate” blog help any one of them individually?

A Blog Just for You

There are two approaches to independent;y blogging for sales people with contractual and/or employment relationships with a parent organization, such as a real estate brokerage firm.

  1. The Direct Approach
  2. The Indirect Approach

The Direct Approach

This is pretty straightforward. As a real estate agent, you set up your own blog, under your own name, and start blogging about your work as a real estate agent, your experiences with the properties, and kinds of properties you sell, etc. Basically you become a real estate blogger, blogging about your work and your passion for that work.

If you are lucky, you will get full support for this direct approach from the broker that employs you. They might even set up your personal agent’s blog on their website. You get to blog your own content, and to distinguish yourself as an independent expert, on their dime.

If you are less lucky, you will be faced with technical and procedural barriers, or told to let the agency handles all inbound marketing, and you should just forget about it and leave it to them. Hmm…

The Indirect Approach

Blog about something else! One of the nice things about blogging (and social media) is it allows us to build our personal brand. The people that buy real estate have many other interests, just like the people that sell real estate. There are amazing opportunities to build your brand through other interests. Are you interested in architecture? Blog about the architecture in your city or town. Interested in history? Blog about local history and historical sites in your city. Do you like to bicycle? Start a blog about the best cycling routes in your city. Into gardening? How about a photo blog of the best gardens in the neighbourhood.

Every blog post lists the author. That puts your name on top of every article you write. And of course every post should also contain a link back to your bio on the company website.

By blogging about a passion one step removed from your vocation you build your brand and boost your visibility. You offer value to your clients. You expand your web presence beyond your employer’s website. You let people learn about other aspects of your personality and interests, and become someone that they look forward to hearing from.

Why Blog at All?

Whether you choose to blog directly about real estate (or your industry specialty), or you choose to blog about something else, blogging is a fantastic way to reach out to your current clients, and to potential new customers. A blog may not result in an instant increase in new closings, but it is a great way for you to distinguish yourself from the crowd (in a very crowded field) and great way to provide something of value to the people you care about.

My last post offered a short list of 7 Benefits of Blogging, if you haven’t read it yet, check it out. Remember the goal of blogging is to make yourself memorable as a source of valuable content for the people most likely to engage your services and buy your products.

…make yourself memorable as a source of valuable content for the people most likely to engage your services

~ Allan Revich

7 More Reasons for a real estate agent to blog:
(even if you blog about something besides real estate)

  • Homebuyers (and sellers) think of you first
  • Reach potential new listing clients
  • Reach potential new purchasers
  • Rank higher in Google
  • Enhance your reputation
  • Share your knowledge
  • Stay ahead of competition

Does my small business need a blog?

Blogging on a laptop

Every business needs a blog. And here’s why:

Establish yourself as a knowledge leader. Blogging is the perfect platform for sharing knowledge and passion with the people will benefit from it. A blog is good for you, good for your customers, and good for business. Blogging is an affordable and cost effective marketing tool for businesses of every size and type.

7 Benefits of Blogging

  1. Blogging builds businesses. A blog is as important today as website was a decade ago, or as a Yellow Pages listing was thirty years ago.
  2. Blogging helps us uncover our strengths and clarifies our own thoughts, and improves our ability to express them.
  3. A blog serves as a repository of knowledge. Your clients are not the only people that can benefit from an organized and searchable knowledge base. You can also revisit past posts for refreshing your memory!
  4. Being a blogger demonstrates expertise. People like to deal with experts. Your blog is your portfolio of expertise.
  5. Search engines like blogs. Search engines now favor sites that contain high quality data – information that is current, fresh, and relevant. Blogging means that you are constantly increasing both the quantity and quality of content on your website.
  6. A blog is the critical core of every online, inbound marketing campaign. Your blog contains all of the high protein ‘meat’ of the marketing meal plan. It serves as the base station of your online and social media marketing campaign.
  7. Blogging allows for community building with your stakeholders, including, customers, potential customers, related businesses, the public at large, even competitors. Being at the heart of a community has always served small businesses well. From sponsoring the local Little League, to supporting local charities, community building is good for business, good for ourselves, and good for society. Online communities are as important as local “real-world” communities. Blogging fosters community.

Need more than 7 reasons? Here are 50 more! (OK, they aren’t all gems, but if you needed more reasons after the seven really good ones that I just gave you, well this fellow [Marcus Sheridan] came up with 50)

Geez! You need even more reasons to blog? Here are 15 more good ones that are NOT just about marketing, business, and selling.

BTW, When you have enough reasons, and you agree that your business needs a blog—Contact Me.

Dot Com, Dot U S, Dot C A, or Dot Net, Org, Co, etc.?

It is pretty well established that for most blogs and websites, most of the time, the “dot com” Domain Name suffix (TLD; Top Level Domain) is preferable to all others. There are a few circumstances where a country code TLD is preferred, but even then, it is always advisable to secure the .com extension too.

But what happens when you can’t get your desired name as a dot com because it is already registered to someone else? What are your options, and which option is best? This is going to be a near certainty for any potential one word domain name. Every single combination of three letters has already been registered. Every single word in the English language dictionary has already been registered too!

The typical entrepreneur and new blogger is going to be faced with a tough choice. Basically the choice is going to come down to this:

Do I use my desired name, but attach it to a less popular TLD (like .net, .org, .biz), or do I come with a creative name that I can still secure as a .com, but that may not be the name of my business or blog?

To answer that question, we need to start with the reasons that the .com (dot com) TLD is so popular.

  1. .com came first
    In the beginning there were basically only three TLDs easily available to regular people and businesses. They were .org, .net, and .com. Dot coms were fore businesses, dot orgs were for organizations, and dot nets were for networks. There was even some enforcement of these divisions at first. But every single business in the world wanted their-name.com.
  2. .com is easy to remember
    Since every business jumped at securing their-name.com, everybody soon learned that entering any-business-name.com would likely bring you to the website belonging to that business.
  3. .com is so ubiquitous that sometimes you don’t even need to type it
    Some web browsers will automatically assume and add the .com extension to a domain name, even before it is fully typed into the browser window.
  4. Search engines prefer .com
    This may be changing as search engines develop more complex and accurate algorithms, but it is probable that dot com names will always enjoy a big search engine advantage. A .com Domain name tells Google that the site has probably been around a while, that the owner has taken the trouble to secure the .com, that the site owner likely owns the trademarks to the name, and that the site is probably legitimate.

Your site is legitimate too, but you can’t get the .com. Now what?

Let’s look at alternate TLDs. Maybe you can buy yourname.net or yourname.org. Maybe you can buy yourname.ca, yourname.us, or yourname.co.uk. But should you?

There are differences of opinion here. I’ll give you mine. My opinion is based on buying and using Domain Names since the very early days of the Web. I’ve owned dozens, I currently own and use about twenty.

In my opinion, .org and .net are useful only if .com is not available, AND you want your registered and/or trademarked name included in your URL. If these two TLDs are available you should absolutely secure them, even if you choose to use different URL for the main page of your blog or website. Unfortunately, you will nearly always lose to whoever owns the .com when your name is entered in a search engine or browser window. If the .com is not being used, and is for sale, consider buying it. Unless the name is obviously, and spectacularly special, you can nearly always buy a for sale domain name for substantially less than the asking price. The people and businesses reselling Domain Names often own huge inventories that are very expensive to maintain. They can often be more desperate than they seem to unload a name in their inventory.

Country code TLDs can be excellent alternatives to .com. If your blog or business is location specific, like “Natural Wonders of Canada“, or “My Favorite American Chinese Restaurants“, then securing and using a .ca or .us Domain Name is a perfect alternative to a .com. Unfortunately, if your site is not locale specific, the message sent by a country specific TLD is going to be that either you are uninterested in reaching out beyond your borders, or you couldn’t secure a .com so settled for a .country.

What about all of the new TLDs coming on stream now? Honestly, IMHO, I think these are all completely useless. The entire exercise borders on being a fraudulent scam, designed to fool unwary netizens into perceiving value where none exists, and to force bigger, legitimate enterprises into buying useless intellectual properties for the sole purpose of securing them against squatters and extortionists. Don’t waste your time or money on them.

The Last Best Option

You can’t get yourname.com, yourname.us isn’t encompassing enough, yourname.org or .net is also unavailable. Whatcha-gonna-do? (yes, at the time of this writing watcha-gonna-do.com was still available!)

The best option for most of us, most of the time is this… get creative!

Make a list of things that your blog is going to be about, or a list of things that your business does for its customers, or the main products that you sell. List the kinds of things that your ideal clients are looking for. Remember, every dictionary word is already taken, but chances are that you can find a combination of relevant words that are still available as a dot com.

Heck! That’s exactly what I did with this very website! From the outset, I knew that there was going to be virtually no chance of securing an incredible Domain Name like, blogs.com or blogging.com. But I started playing with different combinations until I found a Domain Name .com that related exactly to the kind of service that I offer my clients. So, get creative. Start thinking. Start searching. My favorite name search website is Netfirms.com. My favorite Web Host is 1and1.com, who also have a decent search function.

For example, bestapplepie.com is not available, but bestapplepieintheworld.com is available. So is best-apple-pie.com

A note about hyphens

Hyphenated domain names ARE allowed. But this is a bit of a mixed blessing. On the plus side, a hyphenated name can be easier for humans to read, and it is also far more likely to be available. The downside (and it is a major downside) is that hyphenated names are not treated kindly be search engines, and because they are uncommon, the hyphens will often be left out by humans trying to manually enter your URL into a browser. I suggest avoiding hyphenated Domain Names.

How Much Should a Blog Cost?

Getting ready to blog? How much should it cost?

I suspect that if you are reading this post, you’ve begun researching this question. I also suspect you may be pretty confused by now at the range of prices you’ve seen!

Setting up, and maintaining a blog can literally cost zero dollars. I’ve also seen articles by very reputable organizations, that suggest you need to spend about $20,000 a MONTH if you’re serious about blogging. Do not panic. The blogs that I set up will not cost you anywhere near that amount. Nevertheless, I’ll start with something you probably already know, but I’d like to reinforce it.

Setting up a blog is like any other business cost, you generally get what you pay for.

OK, but what should you pay for?

That my friends is the right question! The short answer is, you should pay for no more, and no less, than you need, and you should pay as much as you can afford to while maximizing the value you get for every dollar (and hour) you spend.

To make a bit more sense of that statement, I’m going to make some assumptions, that I’ll lay out now.

  1. I’m going to assume that you are either a self-employed “solopreneur“, or an entrepreneur with a small staff.
  2. I’m going to assume that you are not reading this as a representative of a bigger organization, with say, 60 or more employees. If you are, you have bigger marketing issues than I can help you with. Please hire a marketing manager.

You run your own business. You need to get the most for every dollar you spend on it to make your business successful. Social Media and Blogging are excellent marketing tools for smaller businesses because they offer incredible value. In fact, if your business is still in its very early stages, and you have a lot more time than money, you really can get going without spending any money at all. You will however, need to spend a lot of time learning skills that are not relevant to your business. So what are your options?

  1. Free blog hosting and super-easy setup at WordPress.com, or on Blogger
    First of all, you’re a business person, wise in the ways of the world, right? Free is never free! Setting up your professional blog presence on a free service means your precious blog will be running ads for someone else’s business. The hosting company keeps all the ad revenue, and the advertisement algorithms are probably going to put ads for your competitors on YOUR blog. It doesn’t look professional. It isn’t smart. Don’t do it.
  2. Low cost blog hosting, using your own Domain name (YourBusinessName.com)
    This means taking a totally hands-on DIY approach, and setting up your blog on a reputable shared hosting service like 1and1.com / 1and1.ca, GoDaddy, or BlueHost. This can actually be a pretty good option. It’s the option that I myself use! There is no reason that you can’t do it too. Your monthly costs can be well under $20. Should you go this route? Absolutely, but only if you are very comfortable with the “back end” of the Internet, and understand what web hosting involves. If anything in the previous sentence is even slightly confusing, DIY is probably not for you.
  3. Your Nephew Frank
    You may have a friendly relative that blogs about his fishing trips or her collection of antique costume jewellery. Said relative may offer to set you up with a blog for a few hundred dollars. If you are very, very, lucky, and your relative is a professional blogger with a track record and a nice portfolio, then go for it. Otherwise, think back to what I said early on in this post. You usually get what you pay for. If you take your business seriously, your blog had better make that fact blatantly obvious. Nephew Frank is probably not going to cut it. Sorry Frank.
  4. Hire an Ad Agency or Marketing Firm
    This is a great option. A large or medium sized marketing firm will have a fair sized roster of clients with excellent, visually attractive websites and blogs, with fabulous functionality. A larger firm will have a decent sized staff of professionals that specialize in all of the different aspects blog and social media marketing. Unfortunately, all of this professional service staff costs a lot of money to feed and maintain. The only way the agency can pay for those fancy digs, and fancy young professionals, is by making you pay pay for it all. If your company is big enough to afford a $50,000 Website and $10,000 to $25,000 a month to keep it going, by all means go for it. You will get a great website, an excellent, professional blog, full social media integration, marketing help, advertising support, and all the bells and whistles you deserve for that kind of money. This site offers an honest view of the costs involved in going “all in” on a blog.
  5. Hire a Professional Blog Builder
    Yes, this is where I come in. A blogging specialist can do all the technical chores for you, so that when you’re ready to actually use your blog and start writing articles for it, that’s all you’ll have to worry about. My basic startup package is extremely affordable. For a very low fee (ask me about it) I will register a Domain Name for your blog, get it hosted by one of the world’s leading web hosting companies, set up your blog, create the initial “mandatory” pages (Home, About, Contact, Privacy) and even write an introductory blog post! I’ll also secure your blog against comment spam, and connect it to your Twitter feed for you. I also include full training and support for your first month!My basic package includes all the options you need for a professional looking, highly functional blog that you will be proud to have your clients and potential customers visit. If you want more than “basic” but you’re not ready to use a larger firm we can discuss other options, like purchasing specialized WordPress Themes, adding more pages, high-traffic hosting options,etc. I’m a solopreneur myself. I get you. Let’s Talk.

What do I charge?

Since this article was originally posted, I’ve received several inquiries from people asking what I charge to set up a blog. I have three options available to new bloggers:

  1. Basic Blog Package
  2. Deluxe Blog Package
  3. Custom Blog Package

Price List